Wellington, My Favourite City in New Zealand


red cable car wellington

It’s no secret that I’m not a big city person. 

All those amazing cities around the world that practically everybody loves? New York, Rome, San Francisco, Sydney… they didn’t really do all that much for me. The skyscrapers made me claustrophobic, the amount of people made me anxious and the high street chains that you can find almost everywhere made me nauseous.

It’s safe to say that I’m definitely a small town/beach shack kind of person.

And yet, having said that, there are still some enormous cities that I love — Marrakech, Istanbul, Saigon — and I think I love these places so much because they’re unlike most other cities in the world. They’re chaotic and crazy and rarely make sense to me. I like visiting somewhere that makes me feel like I’m incredibly far from home — and I just don’t get that feeling from most cities I travel through.

And then sometimes I stumble upon a city that I fall in love with for no apparent reason at all. 

Wellington on a sunny day

A city like Wellington, the final stop on my North Island jaunt.

Wellington was one of those places where, within seconds of arriving, I found myself excitedly turning to Dave and announcing that I wanted to stay for months.

Known as the Windy City, I was surprisingly fortunate not to experience any of the strong gusts and horrible weather that Wellington is so famous for. Instead, my good fortune with the New Zealand weather gods continued as I experienced nothing but clear skies and warm sunshine for my entire stay.

I had four nights to spend in the country’s capital, not as long as I would have liked, but given the frantic pace I’d been keeping as I raced around the North Island, those four nights made Wellington one of my longest stops.

Kayaking in Wellington

With a growing pile of work to catch up on and no real desire to sightsee like crazy, Dave and I only really had one item on our agenda: Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand.

I’d heard nothing but amazing things about the museum before arriving. It’s rated the top thing to do on TripAdvisor and is frequently said to be one of the best museums in the Southern Hemisphere. Spanning over six floors, exhibitions range from Maori history to modern art, New Zealand’s geology to an enormous colossal squid.

I’m not a huge fan of museums, and subsequently didn’t expect to spend very long there, and yet somehow we still found ourselves wandering around four hours later.

There were so many highlights. My favourites included the exhibit which brought together all of New Zealand’s extinct animals and showed how the country’s landscapes would look and sound had humans never come along, the colossal squid I mentioned above — the heaviest ever caught, with a length of a ridiculous 4.2 metres. There was an earthquake exhibit, which included an simulation that freaked me out and had me imagining the earth was shaking hours later.

And then there was Game Masters.

Games Room at Te Papa Wellington

Game Masters was a super-cool exhibit featuring over 100 games from the past 40 years. I could pretend to know all about games and name some of the big titles they had but sadly, I just am a gaming toad.

I’ve only ever played Crash Bandicoot.

So while I wasn’t particularly excited at the prospect of spending hours and hours staring at various different screens, gaming king Dave was all over it.

I totally wasn’t into it.

I wasn’t into it at all.

I hated it in fact.

Te-Papa-Game-Masters

Hated. It.  

Cough.

Te Papa ended up being the highlight from my time in Wellington and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s free to visit, and also had free, usable wi-fi. Finding free wi-fi is such a rarity in New Zealand that Dave instantly elected Te Papa’s coffee shop as his new dedicated workspace in Wellington.

And then I didn’t see him for three days.

Food and sunshine in Wellington
Food and sunshine in Wellington

Our final day was one of those perfect days where everything falls into place and all you can do is think about how you’ve made all the right decisions to have ended up exactly where you are.

After finally persuading Dave to leave Te Papa, we spent a gloriously sunny afternoon strolling along the waterfront, stuffing our faces with bread and oils and mushroom soup, and drinking cider. We got our tourist on by taking the iconic red cable car up to the Botanic Gardens at the top, and once we arrived, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the gardens, watching a cricket match and sunbathing on a spare patch of grass.

red cable car wellington
City views of Wellington

I’m fully aware that we completely lucked out with the weather. Everywhere we went, people were astonished at the consistently hot weather, and it certainly helped me to fall in love with Wellington.

I love this city! The hills, the harbour, the culture and its compact size. If the weather was permanently as great as it was when we visited, I doubt I would have ever left…

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42 Comments

  1. Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    August 10, 2013
    Reply

    Wellington looks like the perfect city! I’d love to spend a few months living there at some point.

    • Lauren
      August 10, 2013
      Reply

      If it had consistently great weather I’d totally be planning on moving there! It’s a really great city.

  2. Amanda
    August 10, 2013
    Reply

    Wellington is one of my favorite cities in the world, and it sounds like you’ve discovered why!

    I always tell people that, yes, Wellington can have some terrible weather. But, when the sun shines in Wellington? There’s honestly no other place I’d rather be.

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Exactly! Fortunately, I didn’t experience the terrible weather so I have nothing but amazing things to say about it! :-)

  3. Beverley | Pack Your Passport
    August 10, 2013
    Reply

    I visited Wellington for 3 days last year while The Hobbit premiere was on and, although it was obviously rammed with people there for the premiere, I absolutely LOVED Wellington and we also completely lucked out with the weather – it was a little bit breezy but there was glorious sunshine as well :-) I actually would’ve loved to have moved to Wellington if I could’ve got my Kiwi essential skills visa but…..it wasn’t meant to be, oh well! Glad you enjoyed Wellington hun :-)

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Yeah, that sucks about your visa — I would have had a reason to return to Wellington so I could visit you! :-)

  4. Coral
    August 10, 2013
    Reply

    I fell in love with Wellie too. We really lucked out meeting some people earlier on in Russell who invited us to stay with them in Wellie before taking the ferry to the South Island. We had lovely weather too, and wonderful guides who also treated us to dinner and a film at the Roxy. Only had an hour in Te Papa, and one night in Wellie so plenty of reasons to go back.

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Sounds like you had a wonderful experience in Wellington, Coral. I’m sure I’ll be back one day too :-)

  5. Kieron
    August 11, 2013
    Reply

    Wellington was probably our favourite city in New Zealand too! Te Papa was great but the best part of the city for us was the delicious food everywhere.. we literally ate our way around the city!

    We did experience the extreme wind on top of Mount Victoria.. it’s insane, let me say that.

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      Yes! I ate so well in Wellington. So pleased I managed to experience the city on a calm day… :-)

  6. Monica
    August 11, 2013
    Reply

    I’ve been hearing such amazing things about Wellington and New Zealand in general recently. I definitely need to visit soon!

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      I think you’d love it, Monica! :-)

    • Chris
      January 12, 2021
      Reply

      We have had the privilege of visiting wellington twice now and we have lucked out both times with the weather , wellington is is one of the most beautiful cities to visit and it will always be our favourite place to stay , there is so much to see and do in wellington and it’s a shame so many people bypass it to continue on to the South island.

      • Lauren
        January 13, 2021
        Reply

        I wholeheartedly agree with you! I’m hoping to head to Wellington in a couple of months, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s changed since I first wrote this post!

  7. Jenn
    August 11, 2013
    Reply

    I am not a big city fan either, I like to visit but you couldn’t pay me to live in one. Wellington looks like a very nice city to visit! That museum looks amazing, I love museums (except art ones)!

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      It was one of the best museums I’ve ever visited :-)

  8. TammyOnTheMove
    August 12, 2013
    Reply

    I think if I would have been able to play games such as Super Mario or Donkey Kong, nobody could have dragged me away from that exhibition.

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      I’m pretty certain they had both of those games! I know the boys could have probably spent an entire week in that room :-)

  9. Scarlett
    August 12, 2013
    Reply

    This place looks gorgeous. I’m seriously considering a stint in NZ after I’ve been to Oz x

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      You definitely should! I preferred New Zealand to Australia :-)

  10. Yvette
    August 12, 2013
    Reply

    Hah, Wellington was my favorite NZ city too, but it was in large part because it was so similar to Pittsburgh where I grew up. No ocean, but lots of cool museums and hills with inclines all over them that locals still used to go to work (ie the funicular/ cable car- we might’ve had funny slang back home for such transport).

    Of course Wellington also has the fact going for it that it’s the only place in NZ where you can go out on a random weeknight and still find a party! :)

    • Lauren
      August 20, 2013
      Reply

      The downside to New Zealand’s terrible internet and our fast-paced travel was that we had no time for partying — every night was spent sat in front of our laptops!

  11. Ryan
    August 15, 2013
    Reply

    Wellington is definitely my favorite New Zealand city as well! I am ashamed to say I never made it into the Te Papa museum surprisingly, my café of choice was always the one in the beautiful Embassy Theatre. I just loved Welly’s overall vibe; Cuba street, the statures and art sculptures, how active the city it. My best memory is when I illegally guerrilla camped atop Mt. Victoria in my hammock for 3 weeks =P

    • Lauren
      August 18, 2013
      Reply

      Wow, for three weeks?! Nice! Next time you’ll have to visit Te Papa :-)

  12. Rosamund
    August 16, 2013
    Reply

    Such a lovely city! Sounds like you got your timing right though, a few weeks ago Wellington started getting some earthquakes, nothing major but enough to damage the inner city a little and close it down for the day. Good thing you missed them!

    • Lauren
      August 18, 2013
      Reply

      Yes, I heard about the earthquakes — I’m absolutely terrified of them so I’m quite glad I managed to miss it :-)

  13. Ariadne
    August 22, 2013
    Reply

    Kia Ora, Lauren :D

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed your stay in Wellington, and the Game Masters Exhibition. I know, ’cause I went there as well with my brother, and I actually had fun. Especially playing on ‘Dance Central’ :P And yes, it’s fortunate that you were able to miss the earthquake. It was quite strong (6.6 they said it was), that it even reached my school. I was going down the stairs! It was scary >_<
    Anyway, I'd like to tell you that I happened to stumble upon your site, and after reading this, I decided that I'll be reading your blogs from now on. :D

    -Ariadne

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Ariadne :-). Glad to hear you were ok after the earthquake too! I’ve only experienced a tiny one before and it had me freaked out for days.

      • Ariadne
        August 28, 2013
        Reply

        Here’s to surviving past earthquakes, then! :D And much more to come. Hopefully not, but with New Zealand, it’s inevitable. -_-

        • Lauren
          October 7, 2013
          Reply

          That’s one of the downsides of New Zealand, for sure!

  14. Stephanie @ Pearlsandpassports
    August 23, 2013
    Reply

    All of your photos of New Zealand look absolutely gorgeous! I think you were very lucky with the weather! I can’t wait to visit in the next few months!

    • Lauren
      August 25, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Steph! I’m excited you’ll be visiting New Zealand soon :-)

  15. Paul
    September 26, 2013
    Reply

    I love Wellie as well! Te Papa was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in a museum! Pleased we both missed the quakes :)

    • Lauren
      October 3, 2013
      Reply

      Me too! Glad you enjoyed Te Papa too :-)

  16. Kevin
    October 7, 2013
    Reply

    Absolutely agree. I lived in Welliez for 8months and certainly experienced the weather. I’ve described the city in many ways, yours included – if the weather were like it can be on those “good” days I’d have never left. Even so I’m considering moving back one day. It’s in my heart now.

    • Lauren
      October 7, 2013
      Reply

      Exactly. If it was that sunny and beautiful all year around I’d be looking to live there permanently. I loved it that much!

  17. Sheza@ PartycruiseDubai
    November 1, 2013
    Reply

    Amazing place to visit, i really want to go there…!

    • Lauren
      November 3, 2013
      Reply

      It’s a great city :-)

  18. Sarah
    January 5, 2018
    Reply

    I can say after reading this that Wellington is the place that I’ve been looking for on my upcoming New Zealand trip. This place sounds perfect!

    • Lauren
      January 10, 2018
      Reply

      Enjoy! :-)

  19. Emily
    January 4, 2020
    Reply

    I just came back from New Zealand and was thinking that if I lived anywhere there it would be Wellington! It has beautiful rolling hills that remind me of SF, food and hangout scene is awesome, people are laid back. I’m glad to see so many also love this city! Growing up in sunny CA I would have to learn to love lots of rain if I do decide to live there though I guess!

    • Lauren
      March 15, 2020
      Reply

      Yes! It’s such a wonderful part of the world. If I could choose to live anywhere in New Zealand it would probably be Wellington or Wanaka.

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